A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Ruby Payne Hidden Rules for Inner City Students

More and more I see a value in professional development. For example, the studies of Ruby Payne have been very instrumental in my teaching over the past few years. I notice it again and again—the noise level when the children come together, the need to solve conflict with action and not words, and parents who make our job so much harder because they themselves are trapped in the matrix Ruby Payne developed.

Below is a summation of some of the rules for children of the inner cities who grow up under the influence and (what I feel) the negative impact of poverty. Remember my school is 98% eligible for the federal free lunch program. We also serve them breakfast and for a large portion of the year, dinner too. Because most teachers are middle class with middle class values, they do not share the same matrix as listed below. This causes conflict and problems. I feel it’s very important we inner city teachers take note of the rules below so we can get a better understanding of the culture of our students.

Hidden Rules

Generational Poverty

The driving forces for decision making are survival, relationships, and entertainment.
.People are possessions. It is worse to steal someone’s
girlfriend than a thing. A relationship is valued over achievement. That is why you
must defend your child no matter what he or she has done.
Too much education is feared because the individual might leave.

Physical fighting is how conflict is resolved. If you only know casual register, you do not have the words to negotiate a resolution. Respect is accorded to those who can physically defend themselves.

Food is valued for its quantity.

You laugh when you are disciplined; it is a way to save face.

Your mother is the most important person in your life. An insult against your mother is unforgivable.

The noise level is higher, non-verbal information is more important than the verbal, emotions are openly displayed, and the value of your personality to the group is your
ability to entertain.

Destiny and fate govern. The notion of having choices is foreign. Discipline is about
penance and forgiveness, not change.

Tools are often not available. Therefore, the concept of repair and fixing may not be present.

(Please remember that these hidden rules are patterns that one sees in the collective group.)

Note: Material on this page is from the work of Ruby Payne. All items are
generalizations, based on large populations. As such, we should remember that individuals within each group may have different experiences and values.

Now when one of the parents--and this really happened--tells me she told her thirteen year old son (has been telling him since he was five years old) that it doesn't matter if it's a girl or boy, if they hit him, he should pick up whatever is handy (even if it's a brick or broken bottle), and hit them back. Now I know his father is in prison--first for battery, then for attempted murder, and now for felony drug posession. I know his mother is struggling financially. I made other excuses for him, but with the help of Ruby Payne's hidden rules, I'm now able to understand his mother's behavior a lot better. And his. And I have been able to make life changes in both of them.


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